Tritons Ride Waves in Malibu

John Hanacek/Guardian

MEN’S VOLLEYBALL — On Jan. 20, the 12th-ranked UCSD men’s volleyball team pulled off a historic feat: The Tritons defeated No. 7 Pepperdine University 33-31, 30-28, 23-30, 30-25 at Firestone Fieldhouse.

This victory was the team’s first over national powerhouse Pepperdine, after 37 matches in over 21 years. However, on Jan. 22, the Tritons lost momentum in over three sets against No. 1 University of Southern California. Their overall record now stands at 2-5, 1-3 in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.

In the first set against Pepperdine, the Tritons scored the first three points. Their largest lead came at 24-20; however, Pepperdine fought back with a late push to lead 27-26.

The Waves took two chances at set point, but both were met with a UCSD point. The Tritons also had two set point opportunities, and managed to convert the second attempt.

Junior outside hitter Will Ehrman’s seventh kill in the first set gave UCSD a 32-31 lead, before junior setter Phil Bannan’s kill sealed the team’s 33-31 win.

The second set consisted of a seesaw battle for the lead. After the last tie at 14-14, senior opposite hitter Frank Fritsch pushed UCSD to a 15-14 lead. Fritsch’s 11th kill of the match and a Pepperdine error extended UCSD’s lead to 28-24. The opponents came close to completing a comeback, drawing within a point at 29-28 — but Ehrman sealed the set with his ninth kill of the match for a 30-28 victory.

In the third set, the Waves took an early 4-1 lead, forcing the Tritons to call an early timeout. UCSD recovered to come within two points, at 13-15, thanks to blocks by Ehrman and freshman middle blocker Cyrus Kiani, but Pepperdine pushed to extend its lead to 18-13 and ultimately sealed the set 30-23.

The Tritons started off the fourth set with a 10-5 lead, prompting the Waves to call an early timeout. UCSD then extended its lead to 16-11 from a Fritsch kill and a solo block by junior middle blocker Adrian Gunthals.

Pepperdine fought back hard, making a comeback to squeeze UCSD’s lead to two points at 17-15. It was the Tritons turn to call a timeout.

John Hanacek/Guardian File

The Waves cut the Tritons’ lead to a single point on multiple occasions throughout the rest of the match, but the Tritons earned consecutive points with a Bannan kill and block by junior middle blocker Calvin Ross, carrying their lead to 27-24.

Punctuated by Ehrman’s 13th kill in the match, UCSD went on to score the final three points of the game, ending the set 30-25.

“Overall, we felt that we could run our offense,” head coach Kevin Ring said. “We sided-out well and multiple times, which was key. We did a nice job blocking in the match.”

Fritsch and Spangler finished the match with 20 and 19 kills, respectively. Ross added eight kills without an error, along with a team-high six blocks, and had a .667 hitting percentage. Bannan ended the night with 61 assists, six digs and four kills.

For their following match on Friday night, the Tritons traveled to Galen Center in Los Angeles, home to No. 1 University of Southern California. Unfortunately for the Tritons, they were defeated 30-24, 30-24, 30-21 in three straight sets,. Fritsch led the way with 16 kills, six digs and three blocks. Ross contributed five kills on .308 hitting and four blocks. USC hit at .349, while UCSD hit at .190.

The Trojans also bettered the Tritons in digs, with 40 to UCSD’s 28.

USC started the first set with a quick 4-0 lead that UCSD was unable to close, resulting in USC’s 30-24 first-set win. The Trojans hit at .333 in the initial set, while the Tritons hit at .195. In the second set, the Tritons led 14-11 before their opponents fought back, scoring five consecutive points and then rounding out the set with seven of the last nine points.

In the final set, USC picked up an early 3-0 lead and ended the set 30-21, while hitting .417. Junior outside hitter Joel Davidson added six kills and Spangler five for UCSD.

“USC is a very good serving team with a variety of serves, so that really got us out of sync,” Ring said.

The Tritons returned to action with a win in their first home game of the season against Princeton on Wednesday, Jan. 27 at RIMAC Arena.

Readers can contact Jessy Jahangir at [email protected].

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